by Lang Reid
must be very few people in the developing world that have not
heard of Manny Pacquiao. Judged to be, by the boxing world, as
the greatest pound for pound fighter in the world. Being
somewhat of a pacifist, I was aware of Manny Pacquiao and his
reputation, but had never looked into his history, and just how
he had got where he is at today.
The PacMan biography (ISBN 978-0-306-82045-8, Da Capo
Press, 2011) has been written by Gary Andrew Poole, himself a
writer for several magazines.
Very early in the book, the reader is made aware on the crushing
poverty that is all pervasive in the Philippines. Poole suggests
that PacMan’s greatest pride comes from paying for children to
go to school, when he himself had to leave school at 15 because
of the financial destitution of his family. The “Pacquiao
scholars” as they are known, are more than 500. The PacMan may
be revered in his home country, but is it for his boxing
ability, or for his work in the social arena?
The book explores and describes his background living in a very
poor fishing village. From there, it follows his journey to
Manila to the boxing arenas, which seem almost as popular as the
local Catholic churches. PacMan, like the majority of Filipinos,
is a devout Catholic and in the Black Nazarene group, which
worships a black wooden Jesus statue, which it is claimed can
assist in miracles happening.
Much background is given as to the characters of some of the
entourage, people it would seem are necessary for Pacquiao to be
able to fight at the top level, so coaches and trainers and
ringside assistants are all looked at and their psyche analyzed
and how they fit in with the boxer’s.
The influence of the media is explored, coupled with the fight
promoters, and with big money changing hands (in the millions of
dollars), those who can be trusted can be counted on the fingers
of one hand it would seem.
Manny Pacquiao comes across as a complex character who can
dedicate himself totally to the next bout, but also spend time
in pool halls and cock fighting and being accused of infidelity,
but with the Filipino press so firmly on his side, there is no
public group trying to get him to change his ways.
I asked a Filipina in the office about PacMan, “Does good, but
more for himself!” was the reply.
Several B&W plates in the middle of the book, mostly after 2009
leading up to his election as a congressman in the Philippines,
though the first group shows the poverty that he came from as a
15 year old.
At B. 545 on the Bookazine shelves it is not an expensive
insight into the character of the boxer. There are many sides to
Manny Pacquiao and the book definitely makes understanding the
man a little easier. However, I got the feeling from the book
that the PacMan is actually more than a little unsure of
himself, which explains in some ways, the retinue that he allows
to follow him everywhere.
A Kim Jong-Il Production
Korea remains an enigma in today’s world. On one side we hear of
starvation and underground atrocities. On the other hand we are
regaled with pictures of thousands of North Koreans weeping,
following the death of Kim Jong-Il. Not oppressed at all!
One of the best books on North Korea that you can buy is Great
Leader, Dear Leader which is an absorbing exposť of North Korea
under the Kim clan - Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his son, Dear
Leader Kim Jong-Il. It traces the origin of the regime’s
ideology and investigates its attempts to fill its empty state
coffers through missile technology sales and other unorthodox
schemes. Written by Bertil Lintner, his book is the bible on
However, here comes another called “A Kim Jong-Il Production”
written by Paul Fischer (ISBN 978-0-241-00430-2, Penguin
publishers 2015). Fischer does not include notes on himself in
the book, which is a shame, as I believe readers would like to
know his bona fides if they are going to give the book much
credence. Ah well, but a little internet searching brings out
the fact that he has written 16 books but on such subjects as
graphic user interfaces and accountancy. This book does have
several pages of a selected bibliography, which allays some of
The book is divided up into three “reels”, understandable when
you know that one of the main characters in the book was a movie
director, and author Fischer is himself a movie producer.
Kim Jong-Il was interested in movies from an early age and
Fischer proposes that part of this fascination was Kim Jong-Il’s
need to substitute the celluloid tableaux for his mother who
died early. In the film industry it was possible to bring back
images resurrected of his mother, the most important mentor for
the young boy.
The psyche of Kim Jong-Il is detailed, along with the
manipulations to history that are possible for someone with
absolute powers. Indulged beyond belief, he would resort to
tantrums if something he asked for was not immediately
So when it was obvious that North Korea needed to be represented
on the world’s movie stage, Kim Jong-Il, as usual, wanted
instant action, and the only way he could see to elevate
film-making in the North was to kidnap the top film-maker from
the South, and for good measure, the leading actress as well.
The excesses indulged in by Kim Jong-Il are documented, excesses
which are banned in North Korea, and those indulging can find
themselves imprisoned for many years - unless, of course, they
belonging to the inner sanctum. Alice in Wonderland!
A hefty book at a hefty price at B. 825 from your local
Bookazine. Undoubtedly this is an example of the “unorthodox
schemes” to which Bertil Lintner alluded to in his book, and is
well enough presented for me to accept Fischer’s explanation. If
you have an interest in what is going on in North Korea, this is
another primer towards getting to the bottom of the North while
comparing it to the top of the South.
Churchill and Empire
James, the author of Churchill and Empire, Portrait of an
Imperialist (ISBN 978-1-7802-2481-7, Phoenix Publishers,
2014) has released this book on Winston Churchill at a most
opportune time, being 50 years almost to the day since his death
(30 November 1874 - 24 January 1965).
Of course, as soon as one mentions his name, the famous parlays
between him and Lady Astor are trotted out:
Lady Nancy Astor: “Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison
your tea. Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink
Nancy Astor: “Winston, you are drunk.
Winston Churchill: “And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be
sober in the morning!”
But there are hundreds of other quotes to show that Winston
Churchill was one of the more erudite scholars of his time. Here
are three of my favorites:
“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of
blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing
“Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen
tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the
ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
“For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by
all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I
propose to write that history myself.”
James splits his book into six parts, based on the time scale,
and is not afraid to make his opinion public. On the first page
of Part 1 (1874-1900) he writes of Kitchener and Churchill, then
a young soldier, describing them as “Both served and believed
passionately in the British Empire and each was an ambitious
Having gone from the Tories, Churchill moved to the Liberals,
and his fights with those not of the same mind as he are shown
(and incidentally showing the great degree of research by the
author Lawrence James).
Civil war in Ireland was a very real threat and this book shows
just who was egging on whom over the Belfast debacle. In the
end, civil war was only averted by a world war!
That the first world war was a chance for many countries to
expand their borders, rather than fighting common enemies, was
well understood by Churchill, who was a little afraid that the
Empire might be fragmented, with Japan being in the forefront of
annexation. The “allied” troops were never united and the
Italian generals dismissed as “organ grinders” by the British
In the years leading up to WW2, Churchill continued to protect
his British Empire, never swerving from what he thought was the
key to world stability, let alone British.
By the time you get past WW2, the sham nationalism is shown,
with financial deals being carried out such as three million
pounds to the King of Saudi Arabia!
For B. 605 from Bookazine, you can pick up a very well
researched book. With two sets of photographic illustrations and
a 50 page bibliography it is a work which is both weighty and
worth the money. And will also make you look at history with a
Book Review - Update February 1, 2015
mentioned the book Catch 22 to a group of 50 year olds the other day. They
professed ignorance which I thought was very sad, so I make no excuse for
re-running my review of one of the all-time classics of English literature.
However, having been written five decades ago, there are a couple of
generations who have not been exposed to it. Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”
(ISBN 978-0-099-53601-7, Vintage publishers, 1994 reprint), is a book that
has been reprinted many times, and will continue to be.
First published in 1961, it is still significant, with the phrase Catch 22
being adopted by the Western world to denote bureaucratic situations which
become a lose-lose position for an affected person, and which is beyond the
capabilities of the people involved to change it. Bureaucratic
‘double-speak’ taken to its ultimate end, where the content of a decision no
longer matters, only the maintenance of the status quo.
Yossarian, a Bombardier in the US Air Force stationed on the island of
Pianosa is the “hero” (in reality the “anti-hero”), with the setting being
1943 during WW II. Yossarian is paranoid, but it should always be remembered
that just because one is paranoid does not mean that nobody is out to get
The other members of Yossarian’s squadron are introduced, such as the Mess
Sergeant Milo Minderbender who runs the ultimate PX scams, using US planes
and pilots to ferry his contraband to Europe and Colonel Cathcart,
Yossarian’s nemesis, who continually raises the number of missions that must
be flown before any airman can be sent home.
Others are The Chaplain, who remains an innocent amongst the guilty, Major
Major Major Major of whom the name makes sense in a military sense for a
person christened Major Major Major, Doc Daneeka who wants to be put on the
flight manifest but not actually go up so he can claim flight allowance but
is actually afraid of flying, General Dreedle who wanted to shoot one of his
own officers and had to be reminded that he was not allowed to shoot his own
men, and the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, who officially was not there.
The book can be thought of as a tragi-comedy in black satirical humor, with
the chapters introducing the individuals as humorous items, but then as you
go further into the book, the tenor becomes blacker and thought producing.
Just in case you think I have exaggerated the importance of this book in
contemporary literature, The Modern Library ranked Catch-22 as number 7 on
its list of the greatest English language novels of the twentieth century.
The Radcliffe Publishing Course ranks Catch-22 as number 15 of the twentieth
century’s top 100 novels. The Observer listed Catch-22 as one of the 100
greatest novels of all time. TIME puts Catch-22 in the top 100 English
language modern novels, and The Big Read from the BBC ranked Catch-22 as
number 11. A significant book.
If you have not read this book before, do it now. The review copy came from
Bookazine and this book truly is the ultimate literary bargain.